The opening track to the eponymous record from The Hasslers—a peppy little number called "It's Terminal"is a perfect introduction to the rest of the record. It's got a nice hillstomping kick that will surely invite folks to the dance floor, and just enough of an Americana vibe to distract you into thinking that's what this band is all about. But to call it a folk record, or Americana, would be inaccurate.
The record delivers catchy melodies, robust harmonies and excellent production courtesy of Missoula's own Travis Yost and his Year of the Kangaroo Recording studio. If I were to label it at all, I'd simply call it pop music. The instrumentation may be a little atypical for pop music, but replace the banjo with a keyboard and the fiddle with guitar leads or lap steel ("Not In Idaho" and "True Blue" for example) and you'd have a perfect example of a breed of AOR that would fit happily on any mainstream rock radio station, or even on a modern country station. "Necromancer's Waltz" is a song that, with the lead vocal styling and its swinging rhythm and breakdowns, would have been right at home on that track Rob Thomas did with Carlos Santana a few years ago. It's probably my favorite song on the record.
It's okay that the influences of this band take them down plenty of musical avenues. Pop music tends to be a catch-all for a lot of sounds that are easy on the ear. It's a rollicking debut that would be a safe, somewhat quirky bet to go over well with the masses. And if the Hasslers are up for it, their next one could even take a few more risks.
The Hasslers play an album release show at the Top Hat Sat., June 15, at 8 PM with King Elephant. Free.